My grades were terrible in high school and I could only hope my teachers had compassion for me and would allow me to get through that grade. Things at home with Daddy were the same. He was rarely home and when he was it was always memorable. School was tough for me and I was constantly told I didn’t apply myself. I hated that because every time I diligently worked on my studies the harder it was for me to concentrate. I could read something 6,7,8 times and never comprehend anything I read. And when I was exhausted, forget it, I couldn’t even read as some of the letters seemed to disappear off the page leaving just random letters for me to attempt to guess what they were saying. I once told my parents my problem when I was younger but they looked at me as if I was speaking a different language and brushed it off. I hated school. Well, I only liked art which became my refuge.
When I was 10 years old my parents discovered my sister and Daddy had dyslexia. They had me tested. I remember being confused when I was told I didn’t have it. I just knew I did with all of the difficulties I was having in school. But because they were looking for only the exact type of disability as my sister and dad, my disabilities were overlooked. As I got older and it became more difficult to hide my lack of ability to read especially if I had to do it on the spot, I became the queen of getting out of any situation that required it. Because I was told I had no learning disabilities I began believing Daddy and thinking I was dumb and wouldn’t amount to anything. Only as an adult did I discover there were many forms of Dyslexia and other learning disabilities which contributed to my difficulties in school. If mine had been addressed early, I would not have suffered through school the way I did and to grow to hate it. Surprisingly, I did make it through high school and college. But, the thought of earning another degree or a Masters scares the crap out of me and turns my stomach.
It blows my mind there wasn’t a teacher who caught on and looked into what was the problem. But, it wasn’t as if I had a parent at home helping me. It really was Daddy’s responsibility but unfortunately, his needs came first. My teachers did care for the most part and were supportive. Most of them were sensitive to the fact Momma had died during my Sophomore year and I’m sure they believed that was the root of my problem.
In February of 1987 I was 17 years old and in my Junior year of high school. Since Daddy wasn’t home much I was finally able to convince him to allow me to use Momma’s car to get to school and to run errands. He wrote a list of the only places I was allowed to drive the car: grocery store, post office (to get our mail because he was paranoid to have it delivered to our home) and anywhere else he may need (but he would have to give me permission to go each time. Giving me permission to go to a place once didn’t mean I could go there an unlimited amount of times thereafter unless he told me I could). So, he allowed me to drive Momma’s car to school twice a week and I had to ride the bus on the other days. However with him not being home very often he had no way of knowing how many times I drove the car. I took advantage of that and got away with driving it daily. The crazy thing was he never checked the mileage on the car or if he did he never said anything. Did he actually make a choice to not fight that battle? Who knows? It wasn’t as if Daddy was predictable. But, here was a fine example of a teenager’s way of thinking. Even with knowing how bad my consequences could have been, I still took the risk of driving the car more than I was given permission to do.
So, one Friday in February during my junior year in high school I had a weird feeling I needed to drive straight home from school. Often on Fridays after school I would stay and talk to my friends and then go with them to a restaurant nearby to get something to eat. But for whatever reason that day I had a feeling I needed to get home. When I pulled into the driveway, Daddy’s car was there. My first thought was thank goodness I listened to myself to get home right after school and then it turned into “oh shit, what now?” He never came home (if at all) this early. I knew something was up.
When I walked into the house Daddy was sitting in his chair in the den in the process of lighting his pipe. He told me to sit down as he was putting tobacco into the bulb of his pipe. I had to sit in agony for a good 10 minutes until he was done lighting his pipe. And just like every damn thing with Daddy he had a process. He had a special pouch with his tobacco. He’d remove the rubber band, unroll the pouch and grab a pinch of tobacco to place into the bulb part of his pipe. Then, he’d take a special tool to press the tobacco down. And I guarantee that even though I missed his first step, he used his special pipe cleaner to clean out the stem to make sure it was opened. His last step was what he called an art. He’d hold the bulb of his pipe with his right hand and his lighter in his left hand. He’d place his thumb on his left hand on the lighter trigger to start the flame. Once the flame was going he’d turn the lighter upside down with the flame facing towards the bulb of the pipe but not touching it. Just hovering over it. Then he’d place his lips to the mouth piece and suck in several consecutive times making the flame pull down into the bulb of the pipe where the tobacco was located. Once he thought it was lit, he’d remove the lighter and puff in a few quick puffs to make sure it was indeed lit. Looking back on these situations I realized Daddy’s processes and routines were in essence outlandish performances which required you to take notice to make him the center of attention. And if you didn’t take notice he had no problem demanding that attention from you. That passive aggressive behavior made Daddy feel in control and powerful. If he felt that control and power was in jeopardy, the wrath of Daddy emerged. Truly amazing to recognize how deep his illness ran that every aspect of his life revolved around him.
Once he was done lighting his pipe he asked me if I had anything I needed to tell him before he got started. I always hated when he’d ask me that question. Could he give me a hint as to maybe what specifically he was referring? But, why should he? That would have been too easy. With Daddy everything was a game but the difference with him was he rewrote the rules minute by minute because he never could remember the rules he had already invented.
I told him I didn’t have anything to tell him because I was clueless as to what he needed me to tell him. He hesitated, gave a chuckle and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out and handed me a folded sheet of paper. Couldn’t he just tell me? Was the drama so necessary? Just talk to me! But that was not Daddy’s way.
I unfolded the paper and read it. It was a note from two of my teachers saying I was failing their classes. I remember feeling betrayed by them. How could they tell Daddy? Please, don’t tell my father! Out of all people to contact they had to contact him?! I was confused how they got Daddy’s work address to send him the letter. Never in the entire time I was at that school had they ever sent a letter to Daddy’s office. Regardless, though, they sent it and I was in deep shit trouble.
The teacher’s note said Daddy had a meeting with them that very day. He told me I was to ride to the school with him and wait in the car while he spoke to my teacher. I asked if I could just stay at home since all I’d be doing was waiting in the car. He told me I could not stay home because I wasn’t in the position to have the privilege of doing what I wanted. He also said he wanted me to sit in the car and worry about how he was going to react once he spoke to my teachers.
It was a very quiet ride back to my school except for me telling Daddy directions on how to get there and where to enter into the school. When he went inside the school to meet with my teachers, I tried to take a nap. However, I had to keep an eye out for him as he would have been furious to find me sleeping. I ended up waiting in the car for over an hour. When he got back he sat in the car without moving or saying a word for a good 15 minutes. Finally, when he spoke he asked if I was on drugs because that would be the only logical explanation for how I had been acting at home and my failing grades. He told me I had been behaving in an erratic manner and was continuously disrespectful which pointed a finger to it being nothing else but drugs.
Are you fucking kidding me? I could just see Daddy talking to the teachers and being so charming. I’m sure he presented himself as the poor single dad who just lost his wife of 20 years and doing the best he could to raise his unbearable and ungrateful daughter. I could also see him telling the teachers how rude I was and how my temper was out of control. And of course he conveniently left out his contribution such as his abuse and leaving me home alone for weeks at a time. Well, of course he wouldn’t have told them because he never did anything wrong. And Daddy felt it was very important to take care of himself making sure all of his needs were met. It was just ashamed I couldn’t help him in that area and do what he wanted. However, I refused to be a slave to my own father especially when my own mother taught me differently.
Once Daddy got something in his head there was no way to convince him otherwise. I did end up using drugs and going down a dangerous road but that was a year later when I was living on my own. Looking back, I suppose with being accused of using for so long I eventually gave in and chose to do it. And it helped me to run away emotionally. Starting that very day as long as I stood up for myself, spoke up or disagreed with him, he’d say it was because I was on drugs. I can’t even begin to tell you the frustration I was feeling as I was being accused of something I was not doing. To try to prove that I wasn’t lying I continued to willingly offer to have a blood test done but he’d never take me up on it. I always found that interesting. Daddy would make such a big deal about the importance of the writ of Habeas Corpus in law. My understanding of it is if you are arrested you have the right to request this which allowed you to go before a judge in a quick amount of time and for that judge to review your case to see if you really deserved to be incarcerated until a trial. And yet Daddy was condemning me right off the bat. If I had been his client taking the blood test would have been his first step to prove my innocence. Why wouldn’t he let me prove it to him? I even offered to pay the money for the test but he still refused.
After he asked me if I was on drugs I looked him square in the eye and told him, “Daddy I am not on drugs nor am I using drugs! I have never used drugs or even tried drugs! I am NOT on drugs!” He wanted to know if I wasn’t on drugs then how could I explain my attitude and bad grades all of a sudden. The thoughts that were rushing through my head when he made that comment were overwhelming. First of all, if he had been a present parent he would have known my grades were bad the entire time. But where the hell was he? Oh, yes, with one of many girlfriends fucking around! How could he sit there and leave out the fact he was an absent father putting me at the bottom of his priority list?
Here’s the thing. I remember sitting in that car feeling Daddy was behaving like an actor in a movie and what he was saying to me were the lines he had to recite to maintain his character. There was something phony about the way he was talking to me. I guess he had to be in character so he could pull off being a loving father to my teacher’s. Then, he had to continue playing that character when he was talking to me for it to be more believable. And on top of that his acting and lines he was reciting was as if they were out of a 1950’s or 1960’s movie. A VERY BAD 1950’s or 1960’s movie I should say. I’m not sure how he justified in his own mind how he could present himself as a loving father to others but be anything but to me. It was as if he watched a mid century movie to create a description similar to the one I’ve created below to know how to properly play a caring father when presenting himself to my teachers and his girlfriends. The role Daddy played:
-A strong, middle aged man who is able to cry at the drop of a hat and can show passion, when needed. Must be able to act dumb when others accuse him of wrong doing and have the ability to have others feel sorry for him. This character is a VERY hard worker who loves his family very much and is willing to sacrifice anything for them as he shows that toll of sacrificing on his face each day of his life (only when others are looking). When his wife dies, he’s overcome with grief. He’s lost and doesn’t know what to do. He misses how she made sure the house was in order, all the meals were made and on the table and how she took care of the children. And now that she’s gone he’s lost and his world is crashing down around him. He is in desperate need of the help of a woman because only she can know what a child needs and how to keep order in the house. He wants only the best for his daughter which is apparent by his desire to be involved. However, as a father he can’t give his daughter what a mother can so he seeks advice from other women to help.
So, back in the car at my school. Daddy told me my teachers mentioned I hadn’t done some of my homework which caused me to get several zeros. He told me he was not happy and not turning in my homework was NOT acceptable. I couldn’t believe when he questioned me about my homework when he was the reason I didn’t have it on those days. Often when he was home if he got mad at me about something and I so happened to have my schoolwork out, he’d tear up my homework in retaliation. By this point in our conversation I was getting raging mad. I didn’t hold back and told him on the days I didn’t have my homework were the days he had ripped them up. Just as I got the words out he tried to slam my head against the window. This time I was prepared and pushed back. I sat up in my seat leaning towards him with my lips tightly shut and my eyes focused on him. Daddy said angrily, “Oh no you don’t! You won’t put the blame on me young lady! If you had done as I told you in the first place I wouldn’t have had to destroy it!” Just as I started to lose control he realized we were in the school parking lot and needed to leave. Gosh, who would have thought we needed to leave? After all, we had only been there for an hour.
While sitting in his car I was wrestling with my inner thoughts. I wanted so badly to punch a hole through the car window or to take a baseball bat to Daddy’s car. Parts of me wanted to clobber him as well. Being accused of being on drugs and having out of control behavior was more than I could handle. G-d dammit it was my own dad who was the problem! He was the one with the out of control behavior! Couldn’t the teachers see how often I came to school exhausted from lack of sleep or when I wore long sleeves (covering my bruises) when it was hot outside? How about the days I came to school with swollen eyes because I had been crying.? Or how about those days I came to school crying? And my teacher’s solution was to talk to the very person who was the problem? Oh, that will solve everything! Let’s just fuel the fire! I was SO angry!
Daddy had calmed down once he thought someone might have been watching him at the school. We drove away from the school and Daddy lovingly grabbed my hand and told me I could talk to him and tell him what was bothering me. I started to cry. He confused me. One minute so hateful and then so loving in the next. I refused to talk. He told me he felt I was keeping something from him and because of that maybe I needed to speak to a woman instead of him. What the hell? That came out nowhere. What kind of crap was in his brain? What drugs was he taking? How in the hell could he keep out his own involvement in my behavior and grades? This was the first time I quietly admitted to myself that I had an abusive father who saw himself as the center of everyone’s universe as he was the most important. This realization was like a dagger in my heart…OK, sorry, I had to throw a little of my learned Daddy drama in there. But it was hard to see that fact and realize I was his daughter but not important to him.
When I saw the direction he was driving I knew which of his girlfriend’s house he was taking me and I was NOT a happy camper. She lived 40 miles away in another town in her deceased husband’s 100 year old farm in the middle of “where the hell am I” and
“G-d get me to civilization” Georgia. I wasn’t fond of this girlfriend to say the least as she was the one who Daddy started a relationship with before Momma died. And after Momma died when Daddy would spend substantial time with her at her house, she never questioned him being away from me for so long. Especially if Daddy had lied telling her I had a sitter staying with me she should have known the truth as Daddy was always borrowing money from her. He had no money for a sitter and especially to pay someone for weeks at a time. He was a good liar but it was incredible how his women didn’t think about me. They wanted to believe him. None of his girlfriends felt Daddy was shirking his responsibilities and instead of spending weeks with them he should have been taking care of his own daughter. His girlfriends were as selfish as Daddy so what could I expect?
We got to his girlfriend’s house around 7pm. Daddy gave her a kiss and told me I was staying there for the weekend. What? Now I’m being left with this woman I don’t even really know and fundamentally believed in issues Momma opposed? Daddy was dumping me with her. Before I could say something to Daddy he was gone. I was steaming mad but refused to let his girlfriend see it.
Once Daddy had driven off his girlfriend proceeded to ask me what was wrong and why I was doing so poorly in school. She told me when a student’s grades drop and their behavior is erratic like mine that was an indication drugs were involved which also could lead to being promiscuous. OK, first of all how dare she speak to me about being promiscuous! How dare the woman who was fucking my father while being fully aware his wife lied in the hospital dying! I discovered years later that Daddy was so involved with his girlfriend that he didn’t even visit Momma much at the hospital. And I couldn’t visit her because he’d tell me he was so busy at work and caring for Momma he couldn’t come get me 45 minutes away. Oh my G-d, the thought of Momma having lied alone in that hospital knowing her fate absolutely makes me incredibly pissed at my father. How dare that bastard do that to her. Momma relied on a wonderful nurse who would sit with her and hold her hand when she needed comfort. The thought of that nurse doing that for my Momma is wonderful but so heartbreaking for me just thinking about her loneliness. Ironically, Daddy’s fate was sealed for what he did to her. But, that will come in a later chapter and worth your wait to see what happened. I guarantee you.
After his girlfriend kept quoting statistics as to the behavior of a child when they are on drugs, it dawned on me it was her who was feeding Daddy with the “MaLea must be on drugs” rhetoric. Oh my G-d! This was absolutely ridiculous! Couldn’t anyone see the obvious which was right under their f-u-c-k-I-n-g (and I mean that in every sense of the word) noses? Every single one of Daddy’s girlfriends dealt with his crazy outbursts of rage which was why they’d kick him out at one point or another. They also experienced his over dramatic manipulating behavior which they fully admitted he would do. But, when it came to me no one cared how he was treating me and possibly if I was being mistreated. When I’d tell them little things they didn’t believe me. In fact they all told me it was my fault. With that statement I always responded by saying they too were at fault when Daddy was mad at them because if they only agreed with him or did as he wanted, he wouldn’t have been mad. Let’s just say none of them had a liking for me for pointing out such things. They only wanted to believe Daddy.
When I told his girlfriend I was not doing drugs, she asked why was I failing in school. She told me there had to be a reason. I knew I couldn’t trust her but knew I had to tell her something to get her off my back and possibly get Daddy off my back too. But I had to be careful because she believed what Daddy was saying about me. I was the lying teenager who had no way to prove my innocence. It was hard for me to understand why she couldn’t correlate that if Daddy didn’t hesitate to treat her badly, why wouldn’t he be doing it to me too (and possibly worse because I couldn’t kick him out of my home?) Truth be told though even before Momma died there had been many tragic family events that psychologically effected me in a negative way. When I was 11 Daddy manipulated me and my sister into believing Momma needed to be locked away in a psychiatric hospital. Sadly, we stood with him to convince the doctor and Daddy had Momma locked up.
So as I sat on Daddy’s girlfriend’s couch a lot had happened in my young life that contributed to my behavior and grades. But all she could say was I was doing drugs and sleeping around. How many very obvious elephants did there have to be in the damn room? And yet they held their noses and stepped over the shit as if the piles of it weren’t there. Gosh, I know that’s a disgusting analogy but I like it! I was just abhorred by the lack of responsibility of so many of these G-d damn adults. I was the fucking child who was abandoned and left to raise herself. Home alone more often than not with bruises on my body and yes, fucking erratic behavior from the constant berating and crazy behavior of my father and drugs and sex were all any of them could use as the reason? What the hell? I was in a nightmare with no possible way of waking up. Momma would have been furious by what was happening. Daddy was the one who had manipulated and lied and had no sense of obligation or responsibility to anyone but himself. He took thousands of dollars from each and every girlfriend and never paid them back. He screwed them over time and time again and yet they believed whatever he said about me. There was never anything I could say or do to defend myself. But, regardless of my odds, I always tried.
When Daddy’s girlfriend asked me what was wrong I told her Daddy wasn’t ever home. I definitely was not going to admit to the abuse. I wasn’t ready to go there and was more afraid of her telling me I was a liar. She responded by asking,”Didn’t you have a teacher staying with you?” I told her I only had a teacher staying with me when Momma was in the hospital but after she had died, I had been home alone for as long as a month at a time. Well, his girlfriend knowing Daddy hadn’t been with her for a month at a time asked me how that could have been possible. I told her he had several other girlfriends and he would visit all of them on a rotating schedule. Would you believe she had the nerve to say she didn’t believe? Meanwhile knowing Daddy he probably was headed to another girlfriends house after he dropped me off.
So, there I was sitting with a woman who wouldn’t believe anything I told her and anything I said negative about Daddy wouldn’t have any of it. She changed the subject and told me how awful it was that I didn’t help Daddy out around the house. She said she knew I refused to do things that needed to be done and how shameful that was since Daddy worked so hard. After she said that I thought in my head, “Working hard? Yeah at fucking every woman he could from here to G-d damn Atlanta.”
I was so angry. When it came to Daddy I could do nothing right. It wasn’t just about the cooking and cleaning. Even when I did those things it was always wrong when it came to Daddy. But, Daddy’s girlfriend wouldn’t hear what I had to say. Years later when I ran into this girlfriend’s daughter at a wedding, she asked me to confirm if it had been true Daddy had multiple girlfriends. When I told her yes, she told me her mother refused to believe it but she had known better. And when I called this girlfriend after Daddy had died so she could get what Daddy owed her from his estate she could only blame me for embarrassing her by telling her daughter about Daddy having multiple girlfriends. This woman still wasn’t mad at Daddy but instead very angry with me. It really did solidify in my mind the type of women Daddy chose and how he was able to get away with his womanizing ways and abusing me. After all to have a girlfriend who could recognize it could jeopardize him.
In regards to this girlfriend’s comments about me helping Daddy around the house, I told her she had no business telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I told her my mom would have been very angry at what Daddy was making me do and especially how sexist he had become. She argued with me saying I was just terrible and as a girl it was my job and duty to do the cooking, cleaning and whatever else needed to be done around the house. She told me that was just the way it was and why I had to fight it was selfish. Without apologizing I told her I was just that type of girl who thought more of herself than to be pigeon held into a roll someone else decided for me. I told her my mom raised me to question anyone who pushed me into a roll that I was uncomfortable doing and to never accept it. I told her I wasn’t a slave to do whatever Daddy needed which was what it became with Daddy. His girlfriend just shook her head at me saying I should feel bad for my dad. I should feel bad for Daddy? What? I couldn’t take talking about that subject any longer so I told her I thought we would have to agree to disagree.
Even though this girlfriend said she didn’t believe me when it came to Daddy having other girlfriends she did confront him about it. Of course he twisted it and told her I was the one lying. After all he had to save his own narcissistic ass and had no problem throwing mine under the bus. But, I didn’t expect any different and saw it coming. It was par for the course with having an abusive father.